What Is Hypnosis Like?

Angel Millar (practicing hypnotist) with pendulum for hypnosis.

We imagine all sorts of things about what it’s like to be hypnotized. A common misconception is that the mind goes blank or that there is a loss of consciousness. 

In reality, hypnosis is very different and, probably, a lot more familiar to you.

Coined during the 1850s, the word “hypnosis” is a compound word made up of the Greek terms hypnos (meaning “sleep”) and osis (meaning “condition”). It is also related to the terms hypnopompic (meaning the state of waking up from sleep), hypnogogic (the state of falling asleep), and hypnoidal (which refers to common, hypnosis-like states of consciousness, such as daydreaming, being engrossed in reading a book, or “highway hypnosis” — the sleepiness that comes from driving along a monotonous stretch of highway). 

So hypnosis is natural. But, if it’s natural, why practice it? 

In fact, it is precisely because hypnosis is natural to the human mind that we can (and probably should) use it to our benefit, training our mind properly. Physical health is natural, but we still have to eat healthy food and get some exercise if we want health. And sleep is natural, but we need to get roughly seven-to-eight hours of sleep a night if we want our mind and body to be fully rejuvenated the next morning. 

Hypnosis enables us to focus and have as clear an image of our goals, our desires, and our desired future as possible. And it enables us to peer into and plant seeds of better habits in our subconscious so that it is easier to make better decisions in our daily life. 

But hypnosis can also help us to tap our own inspiration. You’ve probably experienced trying to rationally come to a solution to a problem (and getting stuck and feeling frustrated) and then having the answer come in a “flash of inspiration” later, once you were relaxing or focusing on something else. This is the area of the mind that hypnosis works with. And, notably, many clients feel inspired and energized (as well as focused and determined) after a hypnosis session. 

So what does hypnosis feel like?

Usually, people are in a state of deep relaxation. If you’ve ever meditated, it might feel a little bit similar to that. But the hypnotized individual can usually reach a much deeper state of relaxation (and, I would suggest, a deeper state of consciousness). Some people will even fall asleep for a few seconds. 

We can also compare hypnosis to very intense daydreaming, where the daydreamer is so immersed in his or her thoughts that they aren’t really aware of what’s going on around them. And, we might compare the state of hypnosis to lucid dreaming (that very vivid type of dream that feels “real”). However, hypnosis sessions tend to be more structured, and, having discussed the aim of the session, the hypnotist and client will know what they are going to focus on before the hypnosis begins. 

Obviously related to hypnosis, self-hypnosis is a useful practice, comparable to other visualization techniques (and I often teach clients this skill as part of my hypnotism work). However, it is generally much less intense than being hypnotized by a professional consulting hypnotist. 

Ultimately, hypnosis is a state of being very relaxed and very focused at the same time so that any visualization feels “real” and inspiring and so that the individual has a clear vision of the future. 

Like many other things, robots, scuba diving, and the internet were all conceived of first in daydreams. Hypnosis is similarly easy and enjoyable but probably more effective for creating change in the individual’s life.

Results may vary from person to person.